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Navy Bomber Crashes into Strait of Juan de Fuca

November 7, 1989

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (AP) _ A Navy A-6E jet bomber crashed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Monday after its two crew members parachuted to safety, the Navy said.

In Nevada, an F-15 fighter jet from Nellis Air Force Base crashed about 60 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The pilot ejected safely, a base spokesman said.

The Navy A-6E plane, built by Grumman as a carrier-borne bomber, went into the water west of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, the Navy said.

The jet experienced mechanical problems before the crew ejected, Navy spokeswoman Mariana Graham said.

Base spokesman Howard Thompson identified the crew as pilot Cmdr. Harold Starling, 36, and bombardier-navigator Lt. Chris Eagle, 26. Starling is from Virginia Beach, Va., while Eagle’s hometown is Wheaton, Md.

Thompson said the two crew members were picked up and taken to the base hospital on the Whidbey Island base just north of Oak Harbor, 50 miles north of Seattle. They suffered only minor injuries and were listed in satisfactory condition with minor cuts and bruises, said Thompson.

The A-6E class of jets are known as Intruders for their ability to fly low and for flying in inclement weather.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca separates Washington state from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.

Two crewmen were killed in early August while practicing for an air show at the Whidbey Island base. Since 1980, 13 of the Whidbey Island A-6 class of jets have crashed, killing 14.

The pilot in the Nevada crash was identified as Lt. Col. Richard Banholzer. He was treated for a minor scrape. The cause of the crash was unknown, said Sgt. J.C. Marcom, a Nellis spokesman.

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